Atlanta is going through major transformation right now and to be honest, you got to give Mayor Kasim Reed credit for positioning Atlanta for opportunity and growth. While every other city basically going downhill and the upstarts basically priced brothas and sistas out, Atlanta is really the only city that has that real opportunity and potential for sistas to make something happen. In this article, our goal is to help sistas understand how to scope out an urban area to establish economic activity for sistas. This means find a spot in Atlanta for the sistas to establish business activity in a collective clustered fashion. So let’s do some research sistas and see what Atlanta got to offer. What To Look For in an Urban Area Like Atlanta Sistas should always look globally for patterns and practices to apply to her model for success. One of the best overall model is the she-conomy machine over in Harajuku, Japan and it is strongly recommended sistas travel there to experience the scene. Now there are two elements you sistas should realize about Harajuku and that is the mass transit station and a tight cluster of shops. These two elements are what you sistas should look for when looking for an area to establish a place for the sistas to work together and create a scene to establish a she-conomy. So in Atlanta, what we want is locations next to mass transit and the capability to add a cluster of businesses and services next to each other. So that means everything is going to first revolve around the MARTA train map and if it not near a train station, we are not interested. So areas like Edgewood or Peters and Glenwood does not interest us because the walk from the train station is just too far. We also want to pursue a location where a cluster of businesses for sistas can be established to create a scene and an economic machine for sista-to-sista business. That means we create a whole bunch of boutiques and shops for sistas in one area to draw all the sistas from all over the world to this location – that is why we want the location near mass transit. Now one thing I do not like is locations that have homes on top of the business like you see near the MLK Center and Lindbergh station because the location has to be lively and vibrant and not full of complaining residents so those areas and other places like Brookhaven also are also off the list. Most important, the location need to be affordable – the biggest problem with startups and sistas wanting to startup a retail operation like a boutique is the overhead cost and we want to minimize that cost because the truth is technology today make things cheap and it would be ignorant to try to establish ourselves at some “pristine” location because anywhere we establish a cluster, it will be “pristine” as a result. So Midtown and Lenox station area is also off the list and not considered. So with that said, let’s talk about the places we will consider: West End The West End area is south of Atlanta and a short walking distance from the Marta station is the West End Mall. I never been to the West End Mall but I thought and imagined it was a big mall but it is not. The place is pretty tacky and it is your typical run down black neighborhood mall with cheap stuff to sell. And if you want to talk about the quality of customers near West End: Look, you sistas are not going to upcycle West End and turn it into an economic powerhouse and let me and politicians do that heavy lifting. I want you sistas to realize to never consider the hood as a place to start up a cluster because those places have black people who are dysfunctional and they will straight steal your stuff and not respect your shop because they don’t know you and that’s how they act in these local yokel parts of Atlanta. There are other ways to uplift these communities but we are not recommending you sistas try to save them as you sistas will have enough work on your own hands to create the she-conomy. Cause real talk, you know what they going to say if you sistas try to setup an economic cluster in West End? You’ll hear the local community call up Derrick Bozeman on WAOK talking about these women are trying to raise their taxes by increasing the land value and bring white hippies in their community to buy up the property. That is exactly the thanks the local community will give you sistas for trying to establish economic activity so don’t even bother and let others do that work. Five Points The Five Point MARTA station is like a central nexus of Atlanta and is basically the best and most optimal place that was designed to create an economic center for brothas and sistas. But quite frankly, the place deteriorated because of the uppity blacks in Atlanta didn’t understand that they should be investing supporting brothas and sistas coming up in ATL based on talent, not their damn friends and family if they want to see true winning. So this whole area Five Points Underground Atlanta area basically went to shit – that is the best description. Drug dealers started showing up, bums and beggars are walking everywhere and the shops are selling petty ghetto crap and buildings just went old. A lot of black merchants just could not last and just left the area and when they setup the Park Atlanta ticketing everybody, that just help drive people further from shopping around Underground Atlanta and going there to do business. But now there is opportunity now in the Underground area as a new street car was installed enabling visitors and tourists to take the streetcar around Atlanta. So this allowed a great opportunity for buying up commercial property and reinvest. We discovered a lot of good commercial real estate for sale in this area at a reasonable price and probably can deliver a return on investment if used as a revolving pop-up shop because of the parking lot options and mass transit and tourist draw. I’m really impressed with Five Points in terms of infrastructure, this area is going to take some heavy lifting to clean out the undesirables and bad elements and I believe the Mayor is doing a good job already of this. So let’s keep this area on the checkbox because quite frankly, the Underground is as good as it going to get. Peachtree Center Peachtree Center is located near the hotel cluster where a lot of conventions and major events go on and hosted at. So this area always have a lot of traffic from tourists. In addition, a lot of restaurants started to pop up in the area turning this place into a scene. Furthermore, you have major employers in this area from Suntrust to Georgia-Pacific and I worked at both places and know the area very well myself. Now, inside the Peachtree Center they have “shops” but they were vacant for years and probably just too expensive and that is what I’m seeing. But those shops would be lucrative for the location with tourists and employers in the area. These are those shops you see in the tunnel between the two food court areas. But we discovered one problem and I don’t know how big of a problem but it is a problem. But the following two videos, if you look closely, you will see the empty spaces where retailers can easily setup shop in this corridor that is really busy, especially during the week and when conventions are in town over the weekend: Now this next video below, look at the escalators leading up to different floors and all of the empty spaces – yes, this should remind you of the same opportunity of Shibuya 109 in Tokyo Japan. The problem with Peachtree Center Mall is the limited hours where the place is open until 5pm or 6pm on weekdays and limited hours on Saturday and Sunday. Also, the Peachtree Mall area want to charge a lot of money and long term lease - and have these limited hours to operate a business – this doesn’t sit well with me. But if you think about it, this area is a skyscraper and they cannot maintain a staff after hours to accommodate retailing and I understand this as part of our research in a future article for the sistas. Note: If I'm correct - the hours are the same in Tokyo - most of those places in tall buildings close around 7pm or 8pm. But if we create a cluster in this downtown area, it would be a huge deal because it is connected to those hotels and can become a global marketing tourist attraction to do business. I believe the Peachtree Center Mall has plenty of opportunity for next generation business models and we may want to reach out to them to consider some things such as looking at the pop-up model and incubators for micro-retailing like cube shops but I also want to keep this area on the radar as a potential opportunity for the sistas to create a cluster. Analysis of the Atlanta Area Let’s look at some of the listings in Atlanta and discuss them. To determine the cost of the lease, you just multiple the cost per square foot times the square foot offered and divide by 12 months for the monthly rate. So that place in 5 points, they wanted $7,000 a month (this was the fixed rate in the fine print) and the Peachtree Center, they want $5,600 a month for rent. Now that is over $60,000/year in cost to lease the space for an entrepreneur. What are you thinking about this sistas - paying $60,000/year for physical retailing? Would you pay $7,000/month to have some cats fighting in the middle of the street in front of your retail location over drugs? Note: Yes, the guys fighting in the street in the video above - they were fighting in front of the 77 Peachtree store listed for $7,000/month. The whole point of this article was to show you sistas that renting commercial property is probably not a good idea because of the cost. You do not know if you going to get revenue or enough revenue to cover rent and pay for employees and make a profit for yourself, do you? You see these sistas on reality TV shows be having these boutiques and crap like that – those boutiques better be filled with dozens of sista at any given moment to justify these kind of lease prices. In addition, the hood is not going to work for sistas either as that is an uphill battle. So at the end of the day and our analysis is we are not happy with the options here in Atlanta to create an economic cluster for the sistas. The only place I see is Peachtree Center Mall but it will take a different kind of business model to operate in that area. Another Alternative – Pop-Ups and Mobile Modular The end goal is to establish an area of economic activity and the first thing you hear cats want to talk about is we need to own property and buy land and buy buildings and stuff like that. Well sistas, that’s not true. Remember that we talk about the circular and sharing economy on this blog. And in addition, we want to start organically so we can grow slowly up to be manageable. Having a bunch of sistas get into $5,000/month leases to create a cluster is dumb as hell of a plan and too wild-eyed and dreamy with a massive failure with heavy debt and sistas shutting down left and right and broken. We don’t want that. What we can do is build organically like a fashion-based flea market you see in Paris if you are a real fashionista – you would know exactly what I’m talking about if you a sista that goes to Paris and shop the flea markets for fashion. We can start with 10x10 canopies and other tent rentals like a wedding tent and setup in a parking lot or empty lot near mass transit and just rent the lot and rent the tents for vendor spots. Think of a traveling circus where they setup tents and break down tents but instead of towns, we doing Atlanta in an area domination fashion like the food trucks be doing as a cluster– we can bring the food trucks also to the pop-up space. Or the Sweet Auburn Festival or the Black Arts Festival they be having in Atlanta. Use social media and a central web site to create the next event, notify followers and get city permits and if on a private lot, the better but the whole event is done online and the sistas move around Atlanta in various spots to host the event. Then what happen is the sistas will eventually find the right neighborhood, the right area to establish the scene permanently. The Take Away When it comes to establishing an economic cluster, you sistas have learned that “buying the block” or a community is not the proper approach. You sistas buy up the hood business buildings and try to change it to have economic activity, you sistas have to deal with the self-hate ghetto culture and a community that opposed to having the community look better so they can keep their run-down homes and not priced out from real estate taxes. And jumping into the high-rise buildings like Peachtree Center is too expensive and a risk for an SMB clustered effort. But Peachtree Center Mall is the best location in the entire city of Atlanta in terms of true potential and build up for an economic cluster. But overall, Atlanta does not really support an economic cluster for the sistas and it may have to be built from the ground up. But we can create a “pop-up” cluster that take advantage of urban spaces to setup a center full of vendors and activity to support a scene for the sistas to self-brand and sell goods and support a fashion scene. That is the most viable and most realistic option that can be done in Atlanta. I’m not going to lie – Counterpoint and Tommorrowworld got me all messed up and it is even possible to do a pop-up in the woods somewhere like a day festival or a mansion rental and just the backyard. So economic empowerment and clustering can now go anywhere and that is the point. Let’s start and focus on being mobile and flexible in Atlanta, see what works and what do not works and improve from there – the best way to help the sistas position herself in Atlanta and establish a vibrant economic scene.